The New York Rangers will not go into next season with three goalies on the roster, general manager Jeff Gorton said Tuesday.
How that impacts the immediate future of Henrik Lundqvist is still unclear and something the Rangers are in the process of figuring out.
“Knowing the professional individual that Hank is I can tell you that when we got off the plane back from Toronto, I did have a discussion with him,” president John Davidson said. “It was a personal discussion; we’ll leave it at that. We will continue having our discussions to figure out what avenues we’re going to take as we move forward. We’ll handle things the right way and just move forward with this.”
Lundqvist, 38, has one year remaining on a seven-year contract he signed with the Rangers on Dec. 4, 2013. His contract carries an $8.5 million NHL salary-cap charge.
The Rangers also have Igor Shesterkin, a 24-year-old who emerged as their new No. 1 in the second half of the 2019-20 season, and Alexandar Georgiev, who is also 24 and has been a capable backup and part-time starter the past three seasons.
Georgiev can become a restricted free agent after this season.
Gorton admitted the fact that the NHL salary cap will stay flat at $81.5 million next season could impact what the Rangers ultimately decide to do with Lundqvist, who’s first in team history in wins (459) and shutouts (64) among other statistical categories.
Their options would be to keep Lundqvist for one more season and perhaps move on from Georgiev, attempt to trade him and potentially be forced to retain a portion of his salary-cap charge, or buy him out, which would lower his cap charge this season and carry a portion of it into next season.
Lundqvist, of course, could also opt to voluntarily retire from the NHL, which would wipe his cap charge off the Rangers’ books entirely.
“It’s pretty obvious the scenarios that could happen here with our goaltending, but to have an answer for you today, I don’t have that answer, we don’t have that answer,” Gorton said. “We can all look at our cap and wonder what’s next, what we’re going to do? That’s what we’re going to go through. Usually we’ll have our meetings, we’ll talk to our scouts, we’ll talk to our coaches. We’re in the process of talking, going through our exit meetings via Zoom. We’re doing all these things now and the cap is certainly on our mind. We’ll work through it. Reasonable questions but answers we don’t have right now.”
Lundqvist started the first two games of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Carolina Hurricanes in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, because Shesterkin was injured and unfit to play.
The Rangers lost both games and Lundqvist allowed seven goals on 71 shots (.901 save percentage).
Shesterkin allowed three goals on 30 shots in Game 3, a 4-1 loss that ended New York’s season.
Lundqvist, though, started four of New York’s final 29 regular-season games after Shesterkin was recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Jan. 6. Shesterkin went 10-2-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 12 starts for the Rangers. He missed six games because of fractured ribs, an injury he sustained in a car accident Feb. 23.
Georgiev was 17-14-2 with a 3.04 GAA, .910 save percentage and two shutouts.
“Hank is a great person who wants to be in the know, we’re the type of people who want to do the right thing,” Davidson said. “He has Don Meehan as his agent. We’re all getting together here trying to figure out what we’re going to do as a group and just do the right thing. We’re in the process of trying to dissect everything and then we’ll all move forward as a group here, doing things the right way.
“That’s just what it is, how it goes. We’re not going to find ourselves in a position where we’re just going to wake up one day and say, ‘We’re doing this, we’re doing that.’ We’re going to work together with whatever the scenario is with any of our players, treat people well and see where it goes.”